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 Surprising Cardinals product of La Russa's recipe

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RašytiTemos pavadinimas: Surprising Cardinals product of La Russa's recipe   Tr. 10 19, 2011 6:33 pm

It might not be as revered as the Coca-Cola formula, as valuable as Warren Buffett's financial strategy, or even as treasured as the sauce on your favorite burger.

The St. Louis Cardinals happen to have their own secret, too, and manager Tony La Russa isn't about to share it.

They have fine-tuned it to perfection, and used it to reach the World Series.

The Cardinals, who were making vacation plans a month ago, will face the American League champion Texas Rangers Wednesday night in Game 1 at Busch Stadium, leaving the baseball world scratching its head.
"I think we're all trying to figure it out," says Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, a TBS analyst, who reached the postseason five times in 11 years pitching for La Russa. "You look at Tony, and this guy can be uptight in spring training. I look at him now, and I have never seen him, or his team, look so relaxed in my life."
After qualifying for the postseason on the final day of the season, as they did during their World Series championship run in 2006, the Cardinals have toppled the team with the best regular-season record and the one with the top home mark. They have done so after losing their co-ace to a season-ending injury in spring training, with four closers and a roster containing 10 players experiencing the postseason for the first time, with everyone buying into La Russa's formula. Whatever it is, the manager says, this isn't the time to reveal it.
"I don't really want to get into it or really share it," says La Russa, 67, who has won six pennants and 66 postseason games in his probable Hall of Fame career, trailing Joe Torre (84) and Bobby Cox (67).
"But I think we have a good philosophy, a good formula, handling pressure situations by definition. There is a certain frame of mind that's time-tested, been passed along, and we pass along. I want to keep that edge, if it is an edge, as long as I can because I believe in it.
"It's nothing magical or mysterious about it. It's mostly about embracing pressure, making it your friend. We've done that, and it's worked."
Relaxed team atmosphere
The Cardinals, who overcame the largest September deficit in National League history for a team making the playoffs, are treating this pressure-packed postseason like they're playing Frisbee in the backyard with the kids.
The only time they've been overcome by pressure all month is trying to uncork slippery champagne bottles with wet hands and stinging eyes as they've thrown clinching parties in three road cities in the last 18 days.
The team's postseason run was so late, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak acknowledges, they didn't bother employing advance scouts on the road. They were 10½ games back Aug. 25, 8½ out in September, 7½ out with 20 games left, and three out with five games to play. They won the wild card on the final day of the season.
The Cardinals (90-72) were down two games to one in the best-of-five NL Division Series vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, who were a big leagues-best 102-60 in the regular season. St. Louis won back-to-back games, including a 1-0 thriller in the finale in Philadelphia.
They were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers at two games apiece in the NL Championship Series, but despite their discount jerseysstarters recording just 20 outs in the next two games, still managed to win both. They celebrated the pennant at Miller Park, where the Brewers had baseball's best home record (57-24).
Now, the Cardinals are facing a Rangers team (96-66) that has won back-to-back AL pennants after bludgeoning the Detroit Tigers with 15 runs in the deciding game of the ALCS. Texas is favored to win its first World Series title in franchise history.
"We're having the time of our lives," says St. Louis reliever Jason Motte, who still is waiting to be anointed with the official title of closer. "We do stupid stuff. We blast music in the clubhouse. We trim our beards in weird ways. mlb jerseys cheapWe have Mohawk hairdos. I've never been around a team like this where everyone has so much fun around each other."
They can celebrate victories as wildly as a college fraternity but still play the game with respect.
Cardinals first baseman and three-time MVP Albert Pujols called time before Prince Fielder's final at-bat Sunday, just before the Brewers were eliminated. That allowed Milwaukee fans more time to cheer what might have been the final game in a Brewers uniform for Fielder, a free agent-to-be. From the dugout, La Russa tipped his cap to Fielder and began clapping. You wouldn't know this was a critical postseason game.
"That's Tony's managing style," Mozeliak says. nhl jerseys cheap"He tries not to make this any different than any other game. You won't see him hold team meetings. There's no speeches. He doesn't change the focus from the everyday routine we have during the year."
Overcoming inexperience
This is the 14th time La Russa has led one of his teams into the postseason, but Game 6 against Milwaukee, he concedes, was the most nervous he's been in a game. Watching your starting pitcher (Edwin Jackson) cough up three homers to the first eight batters will do that to a manager. It was the first time a team advanced to the World Series without a starting pitcher lasting more than five innings in a best-of-seven series, prompting La Russa to make 28pitching changes in 53 innings.
But the rest of the team picked up the starters. Motte, who didn't have a save until Aug.28, nfl jerseys from chinagave up one hit in eight innings this postseason. David Freese, who had never played a postseason game, was the MVP of the NLCS, batting .545 with three homers (including one in Game 6 that helped give the Cardinals an early four-run lead) and nine RBI. Lance Lynn, who had not pitched for the Cardinals since Aug.9, threw 5⅓ shutout innings in the NLCS.
"There's no set formula, no magic wand, but you get used to winning," infielder Ryan Theriot said. "We expect to win every game we play."
The Cardinals have 10 players in their first postseason, yet they hit .310 in the NLCS, made two errors and didn't surrender a lead.
"It felt like Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and all them were hitting against us," Brewers catchercheap nfl jerseys Jonathan Lucroy said. "They were hitting everything. Really, they couldn't do anything wrong all series."
Says Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, "… The way Tony preaches it, pressure is a good thing. Embrace it. Take it in. Enjoy it."
You want pressure? How about losing co-ace Adam Wainwright to an elbow injury before pitching in his first spring training game? Or blowing a four-run, ninth-inning lead Sept.22 vs. the New York Mets, the Cards' 11th defeat with a lead in the ninth or later?
"One of the neatest things about what's happened to our club was we took the attitude that tomorrow is the last game of our lives," La Russa says. "You don't think about anything beyond that. It's solved a lot of problems.
"If we're not good enough, then what's your regret? Nothing."
Right fielder Lance Berkman and infielder Nick Punto say they can't recall La Russa yelling at them after a loss. Even after that loss against the Mets, La Russa refused to let his team get down.
"He told us, 'Let's not let this derail from what we're trying to accomplish,'" Berkman says.
Three weeks later, and they are in their second World Series in five years.
"He's one of the best managers in the history of the game," Berkman says. "What he's done with this team, and all of the adversity we've overcome, and here we are in the World Series."


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